Chinese Loans to Cambodia Spark Sharp Words Between Government, Opposition

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh, Oct. 13, 2016.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh, Oct. 13, 2016.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Cambodia that wrapped up on Friday brought millions of dollars in soft loans and debt forgiveness for Phnom Penh, but triggered a fresh war of words between the ruling party and an opposition wary of Beijing's largesse.

Xi's two-day visit to a country that has been the strongest Southeast Asian supporter of Chinese policies in the disputed South China Sea produced 31 economic agreements covering at least $60 million in new loans and forgivess of $90 million in Cambodian debts to China from 2015.

Sam Rainsy, exiled leader of the opposition Cambodia National Renewal Party, told RFA'S Khmer Service in Thursday he was worried about  the "enormous money" the government was borrowing from China.

"Hun Sen's government is borrowing enormous money from China,  billions of dollars.  I am very concerned about this loan because [we] do not know what the loans have been used for, and there is no monitoring," he told an RFA live televsion show.

"It is the Cambodian people who will have this burden, not the Hun Sen government," he added.

Sok Eysan, spokesman for Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party, dismissed the complaints the noise of a "mad dog."

"This opposition leader always does things for his power and ambition only, without considering national interests and society," Sok Eysan told RFA.

"The opposition leaders are all incitement ring-leaders.  Their acts are to defame the current legitimate government while praising themselves.  Now, his words sound just like a mad dog, biting anything in its way," the spokesman added.

Opposition politicians and human rights groups, who have been the target of an intensify crackdown by Hun Sen's government that has seen politicians and activists beaten or jailed, have been concerned about Cambodia's increasingly cozy ties with authoritarian China.

They say Chinese funding and political support help make Hun Sen immune to human rights criticism from Western countries that have been traditional aid donors.

In a speech in June after his crackdown was criticized by the European Union and the United Nations, Hun Sen slammed his critics and praised China.

"China also has never threatened us like this. Cambodia has its own political independence," he said. "China also never advised Cambodia to do this and that.”

Development researcher Meas Ny told RFA, however, that Cambodians often pay a steep price for money from China.

"With the new economic reforms in Cambodia through development projects, we only see endless problems, especially crises resulting from land disputes where there are Chinese projects," he said.

"We travel to various areas with problems, especially the areas where there is investment from China," said Meas Ny.

Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

Comments (5)


The Chinese Communist Party supported & aided Pol Pot & his genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The PLA trained & supplied arms to the Khmer Rouge militia. The PRC gave financial assistance to Pol Pot. The CCP aided the genocide in Cambodia. Don't let Chinese money wash way the facts of history. The CCP is only providing aid to Cambodia to buy influence not out of concern for the Cambodian people.

Oct 17, 2016 10:01 AM

Ky Thanh

from USA

Shaking hand with shina... you will drag the whole Cambodia country to hell.

Oct 16, 2016 11:30 AM

Anonymous Reader

The big autocrat with imperial ambitions shakes hands with the little autocrat from a neighboring vassal state. Both have dyed their hair jet black to look more youthful and vigorous than they really are, much as Donald Trump, a would-be autocrat, dyes his white hair orange.

Oct 15, 2016 09:32 PM

Anonymous Reader

What are these loans use for is a good question. Mostly goes into pockets of corrupt CPP officials. The future generations will have to pay off these debts.

China may need these money back soon. China's debts, both shadow debt and public debt are at record high, $25trillions and counting. The Chinese economy is slowing down, growth continues to shrink. How long will the Communist Party continues to waste public money?

Oct 15, 2016 01:37 PM

Anonymous Reader

Brain washing media bashing on other country. Why don't you look at your own western countries. There are many problem you have why don't you tell the truth to the world.

Oct 14, 2016 08:24 PM


from NY

Thank you comrade, your 50 cents is in the mail. The CCP & PRC media regularly bash the US & Europe. The CCP can't abide by any critics foreign or domestic because its grip on China is so tenuous. Xinhua, CCTV, Chhina Daily are availabe in the US but RFA/VOA are banned in China b/c the CCP doesn't want the Chinese people learning the truth of the CCP regime.

Oct 17, 2016 10:04 AM

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